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Maryland, Virginia, D.C. see historic declines in auto thefts

Monday - 8/18/2014, 11:25am  ET

Car keys (AP)
Removing your spare keys from inside the vehicle can help prevent auto thefts, AAA Mid-Atlantic says. (AP)

WASHINGTON -- Auto thefts saw major declines in the D.C. area in 2013, but AAA says it's no reason for drivers to let their guards down during summer's high-risk theft time.

Maryland, Virginia and D.C. all had decreases in the number of vehicles stolen in 2013, according to information AAA Mid-Atlantic released Monday.

The drop represents a larger trend around the United States, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

"The dramatic declines in the sheer number of auto thefts in Maryland, Virginia, and the District are great news for motorists. The decreases can be attributed to increased public awareness, warp-speed advances in factory-installed and after- market anti-theft prevention technology in connected vehicles and other newer model vehicles on the road today, as well as programs deployed by law enforcement and other agencies," John Townsend, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Manager of Public and Government Affairs, said in a news release.

Maryland

In 2013, Maryland had the lowest number of motor vehicle thefts reported since 1975. In 2013, thieves stole more than 13,400 vehicles -- a 7.3 percent decrease in thefts since 2012, according to the state's Uniform Crime Report.

Local Maryland counties saw change for the better: Montgomery County went from 1,073 auto thefts in 2012 to 913 in 2013; Prince George's County went from 5,092 auto thefts in 2012 to 4,293 in 2013 and Anne Arundel County went from 888 in 2012 to 677 in 2013.

Despite the decrease seen in Prince George's County, it leads the state in auto thefts.

Virginia

Virginia is seeing its lowest vehicle-theft rates in nearly 40 years, and saw an almost six percent decrease from 2012 to 2013.

In 2013, thieves stole about 500 fewer vehicles than in 2012 going from 8,846 thefts to 8,318, according to figures from Virginia H.E.A.T.

The motor vehicle theft rate has dropped more than 27 percent across Virginia since 2009.

Northern Virginia sees more auto thefts than other parts of the commonwealth, officials report. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of motor vehicle thefts in the commonwealth occurred in Northern Virginia in 2013, Virginia State Police say.

In Fairfax County, there were 767 motor vehicles stolen in 2013, in comparison to 821 auto thefts in 2012. In Arlington County, The number of auto thefts dropped to 157 motor vehicles in 2013, compared to 182 stolen vehicles in 2012, a decrease of 13.74 percent.

Loudoun County had a 23 percent decrease in motor vehicle thefts last year when 112 vehicles were stolen, in contrast to 146 vehicles in 2012. Prince William County went from 365 stolen vehicles in 2012 to 327 auto thefts in 2013.

D.C.

The nation's capital saw a decrease in auto thefts in 2013, too, continuing its five-year trend of declining auto thefts.

In 2013 in D.C., thieves stole 3,147 vehicles compared to 3,549 auto thefts in 2013, according to the 2013 Crime Report by the Metropolitan Police Department.

Auto thefts have declined by 60 percent over the past decade, MPD said to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Auto theft prevention

While the theft rates have plummeted around the region and the U.S., summer months are the leading time for auto thefts, AAA says.

July and August are historically the top months for auto thefts, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

"There is a definite seasonality to the incidence of motor vehicle thefts. June through August are the leading months for motor vehicle thefts, with almost 30 percent of reported thefts occurring during this time frame (based on a five-year average from 2009-2013)," the Virginia H.E.A.T. program says to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following tips to make sure your vehicle isn't stolen:

  • Get VIN etched. The VIN number of your vehicle can be etched in each piece of glass. Doing this will be a deterrent to a thief, who would have to replace all of the glass on the vehicle to make it unidentifiable.

  • Lock your vehicle. It's a simple measure that adds security in all cases. AAA suggests locking the vehicle and rolling up the windows even when in a garage.

  • Keep belongings out of sight. Don't tempt theives by leaving belongings out in the open.

  • Never leave your keys in the vehicle. If you're not in the vehicle, turn it off and take your keys with you.

  • Park in well-lit areas. Parking in secure areas with good lighting can deter anyone trying to steal a vehicle. Consider installing a motion-activated floodlight that lights up when the car is parked.

  • Use automatic tracking devices. Have an alarm or hidden tracking device installed.

  • Remove spare keys. Don't hide extra keys for the car in or around the vehicle.

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